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Sabbath Assembly & Sanhedrin @ Kung Fu Necktie (pics)

photos by Tashina Byrd

It’s easy to root for Sanhedrin. Not because the band travelled six hours in a van without air conditioning to play for about two dozen people, all of whom were personally greeted by drummer Nathan Honor as they walked through the door of Philadelphia’s Kung Fu Necktie. And not because the trio played for those two dozen people like they were playing for 2,000, even though that is easier said than done.

The Brooklyn group certainly does deserve support for those things, but even more so for being rambunctiously fun, another thing which is easier said than done.

Guitarist Jeremy Sosville seems to have taken all his riffs and an endless array of flashy solos from a NWOBHM time machine. Bass-playing vocalist Erica Stoltz sports a Suzi Quatro shag, arena-rock pipes, and a disposition as glittery as those facets would imply. The band kicks ass without pretense or apology and without a trace of irony, which is perfect as genuine enthusiasm sure beats the bottled variety.

It’s still kind of mind-blowing that Kevin Hufnagel is in Sabbath Assembly, because on the surface, the soulful occult rock in which the band specializes seems the diametric opposite of the technical expertise he imparts upon Dysrhythmia and recent Gorguts releases. However, from the small Kung Fu Necktie stage, much more so than on record, the band’s progressive elements shine through, proving the differences to be subtly superficial, a matter of degree and texture more than anything else. Hufnagel and his bandmates don’t rein in musical dexterity as much as they make it work within the context of the memorable, Gothic-tinged songs.

“The Serpent Uncoils,” one of two new songs performed in the middle of the set, particularly emphasized this facet of the band. David Christian rode his high hat like he was racing to the flag at the Kentucky Derby while Hufnagel and Ron Varod’s (Kayo Dot et al.) guitars shimmered gracefully. If the rest of the new material which makes it onto the band’s next album is as strong as the two cuts presented, we’re all in for a treat.

As exhilarating as the musicianship was, it still doesn’t prevent vocalist Jamie Myers from stealing the show. She banged her flaming red hair, which dripped in sweat just a couple songs into the set. She is evocative and provocative, contorting her lithe frame before uncoiling and springing up to attack the microphone, eyes as wide as her pipes are fierce.

After a trio of songs from last year’s Rites of Passage and “The Fiery Angel of Desire” from 2015’s eponymous release, the band closed with “I, Satan,” the only song dating back to when Sabbath Assembly was still doing the bidding of the Process Church. It was the one reminder of the band’s past in a short set which seemed to have eyes set on the future.

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